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Cable Operators

EchoStar Loses Viacom Channels

3/08/2004 9:14 AM Eastern

EchoStar Communications Corp. dropped the feeds for all of Viacom Inc.'s cable networks and the company's 16 CBS stations at midnight, after the companies failed to agree on terms for a new carriage deal.

EchoStar is offering its customers $1 monthly rebates for losing the cable channels, which include MTV: Music Television, Black Entertainment Television, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon and Spike TV. Subscribers that receive feeds from CBS owned-and-operated stations will receive additional $1 monthly rebates.

"Dish Network will always have a place for CBS, and we're willing to pay for retransmission rights, but Viacom is holding the public airwaves hostage, trying to extract concessions and higher rates on programming unrelated to CBS," EchoStar chairman Charlie Ergen said in a prepared statement.

EchoStar filed an antitrust suit against Viacom in January, claiming that the media giant was attempting to use the leverage it has with CBS to drive rate hikes and force it to carry channels the DBS company doesn't want to distribute.

A temporary restraining order that forced Viacom to continue supplying its programming to EchoStar expired at midnight Tuesday.

Viacom blamed EchoStar for dropping the channels. "We tried for months to reach an accommodation that would allow them to continue carrying CBS, Nickelodeon, Nick at Nite, Comedy Central, MTV, BET and many of our other channels, but EchoStar/Dish Network refused to entertain a reasonable proposal or to negotiate in earnest," Viacom said in a prepared statement.

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